Measuring success

The traveling bookstore returned home after an event yesterday in Libby, Montana. Libby is slightly larger than Eureka and has a different feel although it’s only about seventy miles south.  As the county seat, it feels more prosperous although at the same time a tad sleepier.

The bookstore had set up in Libby a few times last year in front of a friend’s house and in a drive way. Nothing that attracted too much attention but had managed to sell some books, meet some locals.  This time marked the beginning of a new Libby-bookstore relationship though.  There are actually three official upcoming gigs in Libby this summer

Mid afternoon Friday, the bookstore pulled up to Cabinet Mountain Brewing.  Seemed bookstorecowgirlquiet but that was good at the beginning as a few friends stopped by and it was possible to catch up.  Then a woman with her young daughter showed up as they actually follow St. Rita’s Amazing Traveling Bookstore Facebook page and knew we would be there. The daughter loves typewriters.  Besides a pile of books, they also ended up purchasing a typewriter ribbon for the daughter’s typewriter at home.  Turns out she had asked her mom for one after after visiting the traveling bookstore last year.

A couple about to get married stopped by on their way to the brewery, the bride lovely in her white summery dress and corsage.  Two women came by curious about the bookstore and then noticed the chalkboard sign, “Voter registration forms available.”  Really? They could get a form to register to vote from this odd traveling bookstore?  I explained how to fill out the form and then to drop it off at the county courthouse (conveniently located two blocks from where we were standing).  The woman confessed that in her late forties, she had never voted before. Her friend and I both told her it wasn’t too late to start.  She took the form. I am confident she will submit it and get her ballot for the upcoming primary and vote.  Perfect timing!

A Colorado couple who had been mushroom hunting came by.  At first they thought they might be too dirty to go into the bookstore but of course, as a Montana-based bookstore, everyone is welcomed as long as they have an interest in books. A reporter from the Libby paper also stopped to visit and took some photos.  One of the musicians playing at the brewery came out during his break to look the bookstore over.  Yes, I am ready to take the bookstore back to Libby.  Customers too good to pass up. Catch us at these upcoming events in Lincoln County:

  • Yaak Music Festival July 20-21 (Friday afternoon to Saturday afternoon)
  • Historic Hotel Libby August 10  (10am-2pm)
  • Libby Riverfront Blues Festival August 10 – 11 (Friday afternoon to Saturday night)





The Grand 2018 North Carolina and Back Bookstore Tour was glorious. There are the facts: thirty days, 6,223 miles, sixteen gigs. But the splendor of the tour was really about people. There were the business owners who let the bookstore set up in their parking lots.  There were the individuals who housed us.  There were the fantastic 25A0DCC1-1135-4627-B8E1-A57FA726E985customers who lingered to talk and who shared ideas, book titles and suggestions about where the bookstore might set up in the future. And there were the great co-pilots/booksellers who helped navigate, ease concerns, and hand the driver chocolate when traffic was bad.

Did we learn anything?  Yes!  As the primary planner/driver I realized there should be more days to just savor experiences on a long tour.  Too many days in a row bookselling and driving creates an overload.  There needs to be moments if not hours to reflect on all a traveling bookstore is about, on who we met.  We learned Nebraska is more beautiful then we anticipated.  We discovered the ladies parlor at the historic Sheridan Inn where Buffalo Bill used to hang was an ideal place to write postcards. We found surprises in Chillicothe, Missouri and a great Mexican restaurant in Oggalala, NE.  And while talking food, the cornmeal muffin with sausage gravy at Lucettegrace Cafe in Raleigh is a treat to be remembered (and I hope to recreate that recipe some day).

Now with memories fresh and lessons learned, the next tour takes shape.  It is shorter but no doubt will also offer amazing new experiences.  It officially starts on June 18 at Ace Typewriter Repair in Portland.  Then gigs at the SF Center for the Book (6/21-22) and at Mission Pie on 6/23 for our third annual Type-In there with those good folks.  On 6/25 the bookstore sets up at the Port Orford Library for a day selling books, good conversations and then a Type-In from 2-5pm. A few more stops might materialize before starting out on the tour, but I do want this one to have time to reflect.

One might think traveling bookstore tours would get tiresome.  On the contrary, they offer enough shared conversations,  new insights on this country and driving time to ponder difficult questions that I suspect they will continue a while longer.

#missionpie #lucettegrace #acetypewriter


Checking in from the road

The twenty-first day of the tour; 3,741 miles so far.  Thirteen events in six states.  Many new people and some remarkable conversations.  Stayed with good friends along the way and so appreciate their hospitality: Addie’s room with her amazing art, Tama’s dog Scout, Sarah’s delicious breakfast, Bill and Mary sharing their new home which they had barely moved into, Tom (West Virginia) appreciative when we brought out the Buffalo Trace bourbon we had chanced upon in Illinois, Dawn letting us do laundry while we sat over dinner. A friend from college days drove to Morgantown from Annapolis to see the bookstore 4DF90BE4-8EC2-4BB4-8D6B-76A896AAB5B4in motion.  Thirty-four years to catch up on while standing in the rain there and finally moved to a diner to share past, present, future. People throw out questions I don’t know how to answer: what’s the goal of the traveling bookstore? Is it successful? How long do I plan to do this?

The bookstore does well navigating steep hills, mountain passes, tight urban spaces. When it seems the inventory is dangerously low, people drop off bags of books that turn out to be exactly what is needed.  When business is slow so disappointment starts to creep in, someone shows up and in delight buys numerous books they had been looking for.  Or I lament we aren’t getting enough young customers and suddenly there are so many kids wanting to look at books, try out the typewriter that a line forms.

And those wonderful bookstore owners met along the way and we instantly bond. Page 158 Books and the Battery Park Book Exchange come to mind.  And other places we hadn’t expected but found when hungry or just in need of coffee.  Or the Rhiannon Giddens concert we were fortunate enough to attend in Raleigh.  Now in Dayton ready to cross the miles to Sheridan where the bookstore sets up on April 20.  But first a moment to reflect on the richness of this adventure and enjoy a snow-free morning.

Glass half full

It might not have been while driving across North Dakota or when it was snowing so hard in Minneapolis we closed the bookstore up early.  But most other days hold promises that are fulfilled.  Smiths Grove, KY which has a population under a thousand welcomed the bookstore heartedly.  Local librarians, older women, young couples, a business man, a pastor are just some of the folks who stopped by, bought books, bought Tour tshirts, talked about their lives. Processed with MOLDIV

Asheville seemed problematic for a bit because was it really the best parking space for a bookstore?  Then a man stopped by with a magical tarot deck.  An employee at French Broad Co-op gave us ideas for a better place to park.  We began meeting locals and tourists.  We met Thomas from Battery Park Book Exchange and Champagne Bar. Lucy and her mom stopped by as part of her eighth birthday celebration.  We found a small vase of flowers at the farmers market that fit our space.  Cybele introduced us to new people and invited young women to visit the bookstore.

Just when it seemed we might not have enough inventory left after numerous sales, a philosopher stopped by. Studying Kierkegaard,  he’s nearly finished getting his doctorate. He just happened to have some books in his car that he donated to the bookstore. When we rolled into Raleigh, a friend there gave us more.  And the family we stayed with gave us more.  With the bookstore bursting at the seams, we are ready for eastern Carolina, West Virgina and points farther west.

Our partners along the way have been so gracious.  The Moog Store found us a good parking space and let us try a theremin. Nickelpoint Brewery seemed a bit quiet and then we met a couple getting married this coming November.  The theme for their wedding?  Books! Isabel’s Family Restaurant and Woodstock’s Atrocious Poets made even a chilly day glow when we set up in Illinois.

And really this is all just frosting on the particular cake.  What collective adjective can capture the wonderful stories shared, the conversations held standing by the bookstore in these places? It is always difficult to describe exactly the goal of this traveling bookstore, but those of us working this venue benefit greatly from the discussions people bring our way.  Thank you.

From home to the bookstore

It is still the beginning. The bookstore left Eureka last Wednesday.  By late that afternoon, it made it to Bozeman, MT for the first bookstore tour event which was at Wildrye Distillery.  Quite the opening with old friends, new friends, and people who happened to pass by, who were curious and lingered.A38D0EE1-F225-48EB-968B-BA7C8044BA4C

Then miles of road across Montana and N. Dakota.  Rain and snow and sun, mountains and plains.  A beautiful full moon. Some questions arose. Why is the place we ate in Custer, MT called the Junction City Saloon?   Some questions answered. Fargo, ND has a population of about 120,000 with Microsoft being the largest employer.  Had a wonderful meal in that city at Passage to India. 

Some new experiences.  A person passing the bookstore on I-94 took photos and posted them on social media.  A woman who saw the bookstore in Glendive wrote inviting us to set up there the next time we pass through. Although typically the bookstore is parked in winter months, in N. Dakota there was the challenge of driving on ice.

Tomorrow the bookstore sets up at the Birchwood Cafe. Then on to Illinois, Kentucky, and N. Carolina.  So many more adventures waiting to happen.  So many new people to meet, stories to hear.  The bookstore shifts into a new realm this season. So many new horizons.

Count down to take off

The traveling bookstore has been around.  It set up on a street corner in Brooklyn, New York and in a field in Yaak, Montana. It has been visited by cool kids, hipsters, grooving elders, cowboys, cops, waitresses and parents with babies.  And now it is setting off on a crazy cross country adventure that is bound to push the envelope even farther.  If you don’t have time to read this entire post, here are the bare facts of where we will be so you don’t miss out:

3/28  Bozeman, MT    Wildrye Distillery 6-8collins05
4/2  Minneapolis, MN    Birchwood Cafe 9-3
4/4  Woodstock, IL  Isabel’s Family Restaurant 10-1
4/5  Indianapolis, IN  Coal Yard Coffee  9-3
4/6  Smiths Grove, KY  Quarter Moon Antiques 10-1
4/7  Asheville, NC  French Broad Food Co-op 10-3
4/8  Asheville, NC  French Broad Food Co-op 10-3
4/9  Asheville, NC  Moog Store 10-1
4/10 Raleigh, NC  Nickelpoint Brewery 5-9
4/11 Raleigh, NC  Nickelpoint Brewery  5-9
4/12  Raleigh, NC  Lonerider Brewery  2-9
4/13  Wake Forest, NC  Page 158 Books 12 – 8
4/16  Morgantown, WV  Fawley Music 9-2
4/20  Sheridan, WY  Studio Cafe  10-2
4/20  Sheridan, WY  Black Tooth Brewery 4-7
It might strike you as ambitious that a rather unpretentious bookstore carrying about six hundred volumes with a 132 inch (335cm) wheelbase is willing to set up in all these places including the urban clatter of Minneapolis and the small town calm of Smiths Grove, KY.  And, needless to say, a traveling bookstore deals with details your average brick-and-mortar shop rarely considers – like the oil change by the time we pull into Asheville.  Storage is quite limited and mostly given over to books, a manual typewriter, a small folding table, some folding chairs, a theremini and a spare tire.  While sorting out where the bookstore will set up (a major thank you to the businesses that agreed to partner with us on this trip!), we also figure out where to spend the night.  There have been times when I sleep in the bookstore especially after some remote Montana events.  On this trip though there will usually be two of us traveling so more space is required then the one aisle between fiction and biographies.
No doubt this is going to be a buffalo size adventure.  Hope that you are able to stop by to visit. And just in case you aren’t in these regions of the country during March/April, the summer bookstore tour to Washington, Oregon and California is already taking shape.



Mark your calendar

It is getting so close.  The bookstore pulls out of Eureka, MT on March 28 and sets up that evening at the Wildrye Distillery in Bozeman.  A great send off on this cross country bookstore tour.  By Apbookstoreril 2, the bookstore will be in Minneapolis at the Birchwood Cafe.  Then on to Woodstock, IL to set up at Isabel’s Family Restaurant on April 4.  Then on to Indianapolis, Smiths Grove, Asheville, Raleigh, Wake Forest etc.  WOW!  The bookstore has been cleaned from top to bottom, stocked with lots of wonderful reads.   It had a tune up and tires checked so ready for the road.  New tshirts to commemorate this Grand 2018 Tour and greeting cards are stored safely in the back until we get to where we open the doors.  Friends will join me on different parts of this tour which is over 5,000 miles. Ya’aqov will start out and then in Minneapolis turn over the co-piloting to Brittany,  In Indianapolis, Jana joins the tour and has been practicing the theremin so she is ready for our debut at the Moog Store in Asheville.

Quite the adventure and hope that friends, fans, family and all those folks we haven’t met yet will stop by to check out the most amazing traveling bookstore in the US.